At least one million people in Masaka, Isingiro and Mbarara districts in western Uganda will soon have access to clean and safe drinking water and water for irrigation pumped from river Kagera, one of the sources of the River Nile, at the Uganda-Tanzania border.
The state-owned National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) and Suez Consulting, a subsidiary of the French Suez group, are constructing an 8m³/s capacity water intake on River Kagera; a water treatment plant with a capacity of 30,000 m³/day; transmission main of 58km (700 – 400mm diameter) from the water treatment to Mbarara; a pumping station of 650m3/h at Kabingo and four reservoirs with combined capacity of 5,750m3 at Kajaho, Kabingo, Kaberebere and Mbarara to provide clean and safe water from river Kagera.
In Mbarara, NWSC will rehabilitate and expand Ruharo Water Treatment Plant from 8,000m3/day to 21,000m3/day capacity, upgrade the water pipe network (40km) and reservoirs (1,000m3) within Mbarara, construct a faecal sludge treatment plant of 50m3/day capacity and rehabilitate the waste stabilization ponds (Katete, Kizungu & Kakoba) and sewers.
In Masaka, NWSC will construct a new water treatment plant with a capacity of 14,000 m³/day; lay transmission main pipe of 30km (600mm diameter) from the water treatment to Kako; construct a 2,500m3-capacity reservoir at Kako and a faecal sludge treatment plant of 20m3/day capacity; rehabilitate Nabajjuzi water treatment plant and the waste stabilization ponds (Bukoyolo & Kasijagirwa) and then upgrade the water pipe network (25km).
The Kagera water station will be able to pump 680,000 m3 of water per day. The raw water will follow a 70 km long pipe. Throughout this corridor, water intakes will be made available to irrigate plantations in south-western Uganda.
The water and sanitation project is expected to provide drinking water, irrigation water and sanitation services to 300,000 people in the city of Isingiro, 350,000 in Mbarara and 350,000 in Masaka. A total of one million people will benefit from this work.
Construction work has started—in August 2020—and will run for a period of 60 months after the Uganda government secured about shs7.9billion from the government of France. The project is financed by a 120-million-euro loan from the French Development Agency (AFD).
The estimated cost of the project is 180 million euros with 120 million undertaken by NWSC and 60 million euros undertaken by the Ministry of Water and Environment.
“We were faced with a long-standing challenge regarding water management in the cities mentioned. In collaboration with the Government of Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment, the Ministry of Finance and development partners, we obtained funding to implement the project,” says Silver Mugisha, NWSC’s Executive Director.
Prolonged dry spell has in the past worsened the water crisis in Isingiro district. About 325, 861 people accounting for 67 percent of the residents in Isingiro district lack access to clean and safe water.
Majority of residents rely on dams for water for domestic use and their animals. However, the few available dams have dried because of the prolonged drought, worsening the water problem in the district. Currently, residents spend a lot of hours in search of water.
Mbarara City equally has shortage of clean and safe because of the unreliability of water supply of River Rwizi that often dries up during the dry season interrupting the water supply in Mbarara and surrounding areas.
Rainwater feeds the River Rwizi – a source of water for millions of people in southwest Uganda – and deposits sediment, but within a month the river dries up.
The river runs through Buhweju, Bushenyi, Sheema, Ntungamo, Mbarara, Isingiro, Kiruhura, Lyantonde and Rakai.
Originating in the Buhweju hills, the famous river flows into Lake Victoria. Several urban centres pump water from the river, before treating it and supplying it to residents.
But Mbarara municipality mayor Robert Kakyebezi says households receive less piped water in dry seasons when the river level drops.
The water crisis at times is acute in Mbarara and spreads to Bukanga and the cattle corridors of Kazo and Nyabushozi. In 1998, several herdsmen from south western Uganda crossed to Bukoba in northern Tanzania in search of water and green pastures.
Recently, water shortage in Mbarara frustrated the operations of the $90.6m—Nile Breweries production plant as the factory could only access 10% of the water required. NBL has to rely on NWSC and a supplementary underground borehole.
The effects of water shortage have spread to six milk factories that are either operational or in the process of being set up and the proposed beef industry.
Coca-Cola, which has its second plant in Uganda in Mbarara town, recently suspended operations. Although they cited the reducing market- with countries like Rwanda starting to make their own sodas, environmentalists argue that water could also be an issue.
Amos Dairies, which is located downstream near Lake Mburo in which River Rwizi pours its water, has asked government to allow it pump water from the lake.
In Masaka, the water crisis affects more than 100, 000 residents in the municipality, schools and health centers. There is unstable water supply. In 2006, the price of a 20-liter jerrican of water shot up from 50 shillings to 800 shillings.
Mr Johnson Amayo, the NWSC deputy managing director-in-charge of technical services, said they will upgrade the water system to a capacity of an additional 10 million litres per day and construct well fields in Bukakkata and Lukaya with capacity of seven million and two million litres per day, respectively. Currently, NWSC supplies nine million cubic litres of water in Masaka daily.
UJA House, Bombo Rd,
Keti Falawo Zone, Kawempe Division
Kampala – Uganda